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Monday, March 23, 2009

Use Spices to Cook like a Connosseur on a Paupers Budget!

by: Beth Scott

Don’t have the money to make delectable dishes?

Or just don’t know the secrets of flavoring with spices and herbs, and making food stretch?

The former is never right no matter what your income is.

If you have the money to buy enough food to at least feed your family then you have enough money to make whatever you feed them enjoyable, even if it’s a vegetable dish.

Yes, with the right spices or herbs, and recipes, the children in your family will come to love vegetables. My family has several favorite veggie dishes, that our kids like so much they want seconds. And the main secret to them are the different spices we use.

These dishes range from ratatouille, eggplant parmigiani, to stewed tomatoes and stuffed zucchini (for info on these or other recipes feel free to email me at

Just as they do with vegetables; spices, herbs, and sweeteners are the secrets to making all foods delicious.

These three food miracle workers can be relatively inexpensive if you know where to look.

In most health food stores (and in select supermarkets in growing numbers) there is a wondrous invention called a BULK section.

I’m sure everyone knows what this is, but in case you don’t I’ll explain:

It’s a section of a store that has all types of different flours, beans, cereals, spices, herbs, and much more.

Each of which are in separate containers or large plastic buckets with a scoop, that allows you to buy as much or as little as you want of what ever spices or other food they carry.

The store provides you with bags and twist ties, for your convenience.

Spices are an excellent example of how cheap it can be to shop in bulk. Most small jars of spices or herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, etc... cost any where from two dollars a bottle to four ninety nine (which is technically five dollars a bottle).
In a bulk section you can buy these same spices, getting twice as much (or more) for less than a dollar or a little over.

Talk about savings! Herbs and all kinds of spices are much cheaper bought this way than paying the extravagant prices you are charged for a pre packaged bottle of the same spices.

Flour and other cooking and baking necessities are also much cheaper if bought in a bulk section

Note: buying in a bulk section does not mean you have to buy a lot of everything! You could buy only one cup of flour in a bulk section if you wanted to or one tablespoon of any spices or herbs.

Ideally you should shop around at whatever different stores in your area have bulk sections, and compare prices to make sure you’re getting the cheapest price.

Bring a calculator to the store and be prepared to do a little brain work to figure it out.

Another money saving trick is to substitute ground turkey for ground beef in recipes. Here you might prefer the taste of beef but in terms of the money you save it will certainly taste heavenly to your budget.

You can spice up bland omelets, scrambled eggs, soups, meat patties and more with the correct spices, and herbs.

Here is a recipe for deliciously spicy eggs, that won’t dent your wallet:

For scrambled eggs try using 1/4 teaspoon thyme and pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and oregano, and 3 eggs. Mix the eggs, spices, and herbs together in a bowl.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat until very hot, then add your oil (preferably olive oil or coconut oil) to the pan. Wait a few seconds until the oil starts to smoke, then pour the eggs from your bowl into the pan.

Have a fork in your hand ready to scramble the eggs with, because they’ll start cooking instantly. Scramble the eggs for 30 seconds to a minute. Then use a spatula to scoop them out onto a plate.

Do yourself a favor and follow these tips to start saving money today.

About the author:
For more of Beth’s insightful cooking expertise visit:
For more amazing recipes go to

Create A Romantic Evening At Home

by: Marguerite Bonneville
You've decided to invite someone you're dating to your home for a romantic evening and you want everything to go well. Here are a few tips to help you achieve that result.

There are a number of factors you need to consider when planning your romantic evening:

1. Your Physical Surroundings

It's a good idea to make sure your house or apartment is clean and tidy. It may not be anyone's primary focus but it will make an impression on your guest, even if it's subliminal.

Spend a few hours doing the cleaning yourself, hire someone to do it for you, or, at the very least, shove all that clutter into your closets or under the bed. Wipe down surfaces to get rid of dust and stains.

Apart from the living and dining areas, there are two other rooms that need your attention:

a. The bathroom

Wipe down the sink/washbasin, tub and shower stall. Put a fresh cake of soap on the sink and hang fresh towels. At the very least your guest will use the bathroom to wash his or her hands so make sure it's a pleasant experience.

b. The bedroom

Get rid of any extraneous clutter like clothes strewn around the room or on the floor. Change the sheets, make the bed and wipe down any surfaces. If your guest ends up spending the night, you don't want him or her racing off for a tetanus shot in the morning.

To create a romantic atmosphere in your bedroom, have some scented candles on hand and an easy-to-reach sound system. You might also consider buying a quilt cover in a rich, romantic color and a set of sheets to match.

2. Your Choice Of Menu

While food can be an excellent means of seduction, it's a mistake to choose too complicated a menu unless you're an experienced cook and you don't get easily flustered.

Simple dishes like spaghetti or ratatouille make a tasty and satisfying meal without spiking your anxiety levels. The point is to enjoy the evening along with your guest, not treat the event like it's a university-entrance exam.

How To Avoid Psycho-Chef Syndrome

One trick is to prepare as much of the meal as possible beforehand so you're not rushing around like a pinball once your guest arrives.

Have all the ingredients chopped, diced and ready for cooking. Do this the night before or earlier that day, whatever works best for you.

Salad ingredients can be prepared earlier and stored in separate containers, then added to the salad bowl and dressed before serving.

You can even cheat by purchasing your meal from a favorite restaurant and having it delivered (or picking it up) before your guest arrives.

Definitely buy desert from your favorite bakery or supermarket, unless you're a wiz at whipping up a Pavlova or meringue. Another option is to prepare dessert the night before and reheat it if necessary when you're ready to serve it.

3. Your Cooking Area

Make sure your kitchen is clean before you begin cooking. Yes, you'll no doubt make a mess once you start but you don't want yesterday's dishes in the way. Your guest may offer to help so the kitchen needs to meet minimum health standards.

It's up to you whether you accept this help or not, but we recommend that you do, even if it's only a token effort like tossing the salad. Sharing cooking tasks can be a wonderfully romantic interaction as it creates a special kind of intimacy. Have you ever noticed how much more easily conversation flows when two people are doing a task, as opposed to sitting face to face?

4. Setting The Table

Set the table beforehand. Use a good tablecloth, your best silverware and a nice set of plates. Use your best glasses and an attractive salt and pepper set, milk jug and sugar bowl. Show your guest that you went to some trouble to make the meal a special occasion. This is not the time for melamine dishes or chipped or mismatched crockery. You're aiming for a touch of class.

Use candlesticks on the table for a romantic ambience, or place candles on other surfaces around the room.

Background music is a must but make sure it's romantic and subtle. Limit blaring rock and roll or rap to the period when you're preparing dinner, but please, no high-octane music while you're eating.

Set the sound at a low volume so it doesn't interfere with your conversation. And remember, if you don't play music during the meal you run the risk of filling any silences with the sound of people masticating.

5. Cleaning Up Later

Don't let your guest anywhere near the kitchen after the meal is over. Hopefully you'll have better things to do with your time together.

But all is not lost if they do insist on helping with the chores. Many a couple has fallen in love while doing the dishes, for two main reasons:

1. As mentioned earlier, there's the ease of conversation that takes place when you're doing a task rather than concentrating on talking.

2. Doing dishes together is like playing house. It can actually feel very romantic, especially when one or both people realize, "This is what I want with this person." You won't get the same effect if you use a dishwasher, so set aside at least a couple of pots, which will you allow to suggest, "I'll wash and you dry."

With a little forethought, anyone can create a romantic evening at home. The old cliché, "the way to a person's heart is through their stomach", has more than a little truth to it. Test it yourself with someone you care about. The least you'll get is a great home-cooked meal.

About the author:
Marguerite Bonneville is a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) whose passion is publishing information online. She is a contributing writer at,a resource site dedicated to helping visitors access the best online recipes.

The Power of the Meal

by: Jesse S. Somer
Since the beginning of time one aspect of human social experience has stood out as the ‘place to be’ for communication and family bonding: the meal. In contemporary human life the evening dinner is often the only place and time that a family all sits down together. In tribal times (of course there are still tribes today) the cooking of a slaughtered animal or cultivated vegetables brought the group together to share ideas and feelings. Think about it these days; when you want to take someone out for a romantic date, meet business colleagues, get together with old friends and acquaintances, we go out for a bite to eat. What is it about sharing some food that puts us in such a relaxed and communicable state? Could it simply be science, and the fact that if you are tense when you eat, the food doesn’t digest as well? Or, could it have some psychological basis having to do with the idea that you are sharing some life-giving sustenance with your fellow species instead of warring over it? Subconsciously do we recognize the facts that we will be able to live another day as well as sew healthy seeds for future generations?

Think of all the problems in the world today. Maybe if we all got together for a feast we could work out some practical solutions, say while sipping on coconut milk, or chewing on a loaf of bread. The current (14th) Dalai Lama is quoted as having said, “I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.”

There is also the idea of food as being a medium for the transferal of emotional energy. I am currently living with a friend who is very adept in the kitchen. He uses high quality ingredients and professional techniques, but he also follows the belief that what mood you are in, the amount of effort and awareness you give the cooking process, and the love and gratitude that you feel for the ability to eat is imperative to making a good meal. I have read in a famous Hari Krishna cookbook as well as Taoist teachings how the actual emotions that the cook feels when making a meal is transmitted into the food via chi energy. Feelings and food are both forms of energy. Native Americans believe that all thoughts and emotions are ‘alive’.

You may have seen the recent film, ‘What the bleep do we know?’ Read about it at In this film world-renowned scientists discuss the idea that all thoughts and emotions are actually physically material in the sense that they are produced by chemicals and are transmitted in electrical forms. Therefore, a happy chef truly spreads happiness by enjoying the preparation of a meal.

So, next time you sit down to a meal with friends or family, or cook for guests, remember the significance of this often undervalued experience. For hundreds of thousands of years our distant relatives’ whole way of social life was based around the acquisition and sharing of food. It is often the main time to communicate to the ones you hold most dearly, so please don’t take it for granted or think that just because it is necessary for survival that there aren’t any meaningful and mysterious aspects to the experience. Relating to each other is one of the most important elements in a social creature’s existence; the meal is a time and place for relationships to sprout and grow. That’s just some of the power of the meal.

About the author:
Jesse S. Somer
Jesse S. Somer is a creature that eats a little bit too much food at times, and needs to share more meals with other organisms that he loves.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Turn Your Love of Chocolate from a Secret Pleasure to a Fun Social Event

by: Larry Friedlan

Chocolate isn’t a Food, but an Experience

Few words evoke the emotional enthusiasm people feel toward chocolate. It has a treasured place in our personal collection of memories - the Easter baskets, the birthday treats, the candy displays at Christmas, the heart that told you someone loves you.

It started young. During our special times, chocolate was there - an integral part of the event. One taste of chocolate (or even the thought alone) makes the mouth water and the emotional associations rush in. It brings back the multitude of fondly-remembered feel-good experiences we didn’t want to end.

So a great-testing piece of chocolate inevitably makes us happy inside. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that’s reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. That’s why, even at times when we’re feeling down, anything chocolate feels so comforting.

Chocolate is Meant to be Shared

My favorite career was owning The Chocolate Factory in Branson, Missouri. Making chocolate inspired me; it’s so apparent that it makes a person’s soul happy. My passion led me to create 300 new chocolate products and 26 different flavored fudges (one of which won the title, "World’s Best Chocolate" in 1986).

Out of that grew the Chocolate Fantasy events, which are used as non-profit fundraisers. People can’t resist the 30 to 40 different kinds of chocolate creations offered. It combines three great things - chocolate, fun, and doing good through the charity. As crowd-pleasing and impressive as those events are, these same techniques can be accomplished by a rank beginner. With equally enthusiastic reactions.

Making chocolate goodies with others improves the flavor - as well as the enjoyment.

Visualize your whole family gathered around in the kitchen, making gourmet chocolates together. Smell that wonderful chocolatey aroma, feel the rich texture of gourmet chocolate goodies in your fingers.

Now that’s fun! And you’re all creating memories you’ll never forget, at the same time.

You Can "Do this at Home"

The Old Tyme Chocolate Cookbook I wrote shows how to make truly gourmet chocolate in your own home, using the tools you’ve already got. Without prior experience, anyone can create professional-quality results your friends will rave about. You’ll reveal out-of-the-ordinary chocolate expertise. All because you grasp the subtle differences of taste and texture between your gourmet concoctions, and what is sold at the store.

Learn tricks that the pros know. For instance, did you know you must NEVER introduce water into the chocolate during the manufacturing stage? A few drops of water will turn a pot of chocolate into the consistency of modeling clay. Why not try a recipe that will satisfy any chocolate craving?

Chocolate Toffee

2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup dark corn syrup
dash salt
½ cup whipping cream
½ stick (¼ cup) butter

Line an 8-inch baking pan with buttered foil. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Begin cooking over medium heat, lowering heat as candy thickens. Cook to 250 degrees F. Pour into prepared pan and let cool. Break into bite-sized pieces or cut and wrap in plastic film.

Check out other chocolate recipes, tricks, and lore from my book at

Dazzle your friends and family with your chocolate proficiency. It’s sure to raise your reputation, along with your social standing. Best of all, you’ll find yourself as welcome as the chocolate masterpieces you create. It’s all in knowing how.

About the author:
--Larry Friedlan, Author, Old Tyme Chocolate Cookbook. Make gourmet chocolate like a pro in your own kitchen. Visit fun, chocolate recipes, and more.

Tips to Buying Food Online

by: Melanie Breeze
Did you know that you could buy food online? I was amazed when I discovered this fact. There are hundreds of different food websites on the internet, all of which offer great deals and promotions. So no matter what you are in the mood for, you can find it online. You can choose from steaks, lobsters, fruit, wine, chocolates, cakes, coffee, and much more.

What is available? You may be surprised to find out that almost any item that you desire can be purchased online. Many sites offer discount grocery deliveries, as well as gourmet treats. If you want a cheap elegant dinner date, try ordering two live Maine lobsters! They will be shipped to your doorstep within 24 hours, complete with cooking instructions. You can make it surf and turf by adding some Omaha steaks to the menu. Top it off with a bottle of wine and imported chocolates. All purchased online, for less than you would think! The trick to buying food online is to look for the best deals and promotions.

A good food delivery site will have many important features. First you want to find someone that has been around for a while. I like the selection available at They only work with the best sites, and you can be sure that you are getting a good deal. Second look at their prices and selection. Most sites will offer various promotions and coupons for repeat customers. So if you get hooked on that fancy chocolate, it may be cheaper the next batch that you order. You can also find coupon codes that may give you free shipping or 15% off the next purchase. Last, make sure to factor in the shipping costs. Good sites offers free shipping anywhere in the country. Most perishable items will need to be specially packed and rush delivered.

Buying food online is a great way to get a good discount. Websites have lower overhead and are able to give you the same product your local grocery store can, at a fraction of the retail price. What a great deal! And with the wide assortment and free shipping, you can’t pass up buying food online. Consider sending a shipment of wine or steaks for cheap, easy gift giving. Most people love food gifts, so you can’t go wrong.

About the author:
Melanie Breeze, avid online shopper and user of http://www.CouponChief.comis always shopping around for the best deals. You can find food coupons available around the web at CouponChief, all in one location. Always find an online coupon 1st before making ANY purchase!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cooking with a Crock Pot

by: SilentOne

Crock pot cooking has a glorious past! In grandma’s day the crock pot was called the slow cooker. She would load it up with roast beef and potatoes, or chicken and vegetables, and let it simmer all day long, filling the house with the delicious aroma. Crock pot cooking makes it easy to cook a meal to perfection. Tender morsels, rich sauces and broths, all combine in a meal that would have been difficult to achieve without crock pot cooking. Conventional cooking usually requires a good deal of time and energy, two things which are in short supply in this busy age. Most working people these days don’t have the time to stand around watching the stove. Crock pot cooking is the answer for old
fashioned nutritious meals. Throw a few good ingredients in the pot in the morning, and come home that evening to a tasty meal just like
grandma used to make!

Crock pot cooking is easier than ever before. Temperature systems and timing mechanisms allow precise control. Electronic safeguards allow cooks to put their minds at rest and go on with their day, knowing that the crock pot is doing what it’s designed to do. Some models are even designed to be microwavable, which is great for reheating leftovers. Cleaning up after crock pot cooking is made easier too! Surfaces are dishwasher-safe and Teflon coated, making clean-up a breeze.

About the author: